I was telling my son Nick how, when my friends and I were little, we used to hang out in the fort my brother built and play detective. We’d hide behind trees and communicate via imaginary radios, ending our communique with “over and out.” We said this because that must’ve been what we heard in the many war movies we’d grown up watching. But Nick didn’t get what it meant, so I Googled the phrase and found out we’d been using the lingo the wrong way. On one website, a person posted the following:
“As for 'Over and out,' you would be shot out of the water if you used the phrase on marine radio. 'Over' means 'I have finished speaking and am awaiting a reply.' 'Out' means 'I have finished the communication.' 'Over' and 'Out' should NEVER be used together in serious radio communication.”
I laughed at how I’d been misusing those words. But then again, it didn’t surprise me. Isn’t that how much of the world operates? In conversations across the globe, people are talking, but they are "over and outing" each other, putting in an appearance of listening or wanting to hear, but then saying “out” before the other person can respond to the “over.” We all know what it’s like to try to convey a thought to someone whose mind is already made up regarding what they want to do or to think. And we’ve been in situations where we’ve been guilty of thinking about where we’re going to have lunch or when we’re going to do the laundry while someone else is talking to us. We portend a stance of “over” while practicing “over and out.”
This happens to me with God. I remember “praying” once about getting involved in a ministry (I put praying in quotes because I’d already made up my mind). I was so sure it was something God would approve of, but just to be safe, I took a couple days to go through the motion of “seeking God” about it. Not hearing anything from God on this (which Oswald Chambers says should be taken as a red flag) I remember one day decidedly closing my Bible and thinking, “God will bless this, even if I haven’t really heard from Him.” Oh, God did bless it, in that He taught me never ever to plunge ahead without His call again!
See, I was in “over and out” mode. I pretended to be in “over” mode, awaiting God’s leading, but in reality, I jumped right to “out” mode, essentially shutting God out. That is, until mopping up and bailing out time came: ever notice how, after we’ve made a real mess of things, we’re suddenly ready to listen to God? We’re ready to be in “over” mode only?
So often in prayer I’m restless and I pray about something, but then move on to another request, or go on to do my Bible reading, or hurriedly finish up with my quiet time anxious to get to other activities. I’m praying “over and out” prayers. I pray and then tell God that my communication is over before He has a chance to even speak to me. I put down the radio and go about my day, leaving God waiting on the other end.
Oftentimes people say prayer doesn’t really accomplish anything: we do. I’ve felt that way sometimes. I want to just jump in and “do” and not wait for God. But it’s that very act of “doing” without God that is the hindrance—the prevention—of prayer taking an active, accomplishing role in our, and other’s, lives. Prayer doesn't accomplish things because we hang up on the author of prayer before He can give His answer. Instead of ending with “Amen,” we close with a self-centered “over and out.”
Just as “over and out” should never be used together in serious radio communication, it should never be used in serious God-communication either.
"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26: 40-41
"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" Mark 14:35-36
"When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 'Why are you sleeping?' he asked them. 'Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Luke 22:45-46